Symbian 3 Smartphone Platform Released at Mobile World Congress

At the Mobile World Congress, the Symbian Foundation announces the release of the Symbian 3 platform, the first fully open-source release of the Symbian OS.

At the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, the Symbian Foundation announced the release of the Symbian 3 platform, the first fully open-source release of the Symbian OS.

The Symbian Foundation made its announcement at MWC on Feb. 15, a little more than a week after the platform's transition to an open-source license on Feb. 4.

Lee Williams, executive director of the Symbian Foundation, said in a statement:

"Symbian 3 is another huge milestone in the evolution of our platform. Now that it is fully open source, the door is open to individual contributors, device creators and third-party developer companies, as well as other organizations, to create more compelling products and services than ever before. We have enjoyed significant momentum since we completed Symbian 2, with companies including Sun, Nokia, Ixonos, Comarch and Accenture, among others, contributing to Symbian 3. We are now looking to build on this momentum and remain on course to complete Symbian 4 later this year."

Symbian officials said Symbian is expected to be "feature complete" by the end of the first quarter of 2010 and the release will include significant usability and interface advances, faster networking, acceleration for 2D and 3D graphics in games and applications, HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface) support, music store integration, an improved user interface with easier navigation and multitouch gesture support, a feature-rich Homescreen, and the ability to run even more applications simultaneously.

In a blog post about the Symbian 3 release, Ian Hutton, a member of the Technology Management team at the Symbian Foundation and chair of the organization's Feature and Roadmap Council, said:

"Symbian 3 is slated to deliver a host of improvements right across the platform, from architectural renewal in graphics and networking to significant advances in usability. The UI gets faster; connecting to the web gets easier; and potentially, you will be able to plug the whole thing into your TV and watch HD movies without a Blue-ray player. Then there's gaming ... better radio. ... If I tried to walk through everything new in Symbian 3 this would turn into one pretty long post. As we already have a darn good Symbian 3 overview I'll try to give you a flavor of what's coming by picking out three themes: Simpler, Faster, Better."

According to Hutton, not only is the UI faster, but much easier. "Consistent rollout of a 'single tap' paradigm throughout the touch UI means no more 'tap to select, tap again to action,'" he said.

One element of improved performance is the new 2D/3D graphics architecture in Symbian 3, which takes advantage of hardware acceleration to deliver a faster and more responsive user interface, Hutton said. In addition, in the "Better" category, Hutton said the Homescreen in Symbian 3 will support multiple pages of widgets and a simple flick gesture to move between them.

Although Symbian officials said members of the Symbian community, including device creators, network operators, hardware technology providers, professional services companies and application developers, are already working with Symbian 3 and the first devices using the platform are expected to ship as early as the third quarter of 2010, the new platform comes out against greater competition than ever. Not only is Apple's iPhone a competitor to watch, but Google's Android is expected to eat into Symbian's market-leading share of the smartphone market. In addition, Microsoft's Windows Mobile, Research In Motion's BlackBerry, Palm's webOS and other platforms are vying for market share and developer mind share.

Speaking of which, the developer experience has also been greatly improved with Symbian 3, the foundation said. The Qt toolkit is preintegrated into all kits, and the runtime in Symbian 3 will run on existing devices back to S60 3.1. Also, the Web Runtime support provided in the platform remains a key part of the developer story, allowing Web developers to directly reuse their skills in HTML, CSS, JavaScript and Asynchronous JavaScript and X M L (AJAX) to create Homescreen widgets and stand-alone applications.